Pumpkin Eggnog Custard

Pumpkin Eggnog Custard

It’s with great sadness that I post my last pumpkin recipe of the year. This one – for pumpkin eggnog custard – happens to be one of my favorites, as it’s essentially pumpkin pie filling with a hint of eggnog. The result is a creamy, rich pumpkin pudding without the hassle of a pie crust. Because seriously, crust … ain’t nobody got time for that!

While I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin pie spice (I like the ability to control the amount and variety of spice in the custard), use it if it’s all you have on hand. I also find the custard bakes more evenly when the ramekins are placed in a hot water bath (instructions are below). Enjoy!

PUMPKIN EGGNOG CUSTARD

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

2 large fresh eggs

15 ounces pumpkin puree

6 fl. oz. evaporated 2% milk

6 fl. oz. eggnog

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius).

2.  Mix sugar, salt and spices in a small bowl; set aside. In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture and stir until well combined. Gradually stir in evaporated milk and eggnog.

3.  Divide custard batter between 6 ramekins and place in large casserole dish. Add hot water to the dish until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the custard comes out clean. Serve cold or slightly warm.

(re-posted from my old blog, Cucina Fresca)

Pumpkin Orange Soup

Pumpkin Orange Soup

This recipe for Pumpkin Orange Soup – courtesy of the Autumn 2012 issue of Woman & Home: Feel Good Food – is a new culinary hit in our household. While I had my doubts about the combination of pumpkin, sweet potatoes and orange in a savory vegetable broth, I was pleasantly surprised with the unique seasonal flavor of this soup. It’s easy, it’s vegan, and best of all, it’s PUMPKIN!! Enjoy!

PUMPKIN ORANGE SOUP

Serves: 4

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled + chopped
  • 18 ounces fresh pumpkin, peeled, seeded + chopped
  • 14 ounces fresh sweet potatoes, peeled + chopped
  • Zest and juice of 2 fresh oranges
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled + sliced
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 850 ml hot vegetable stock
  • 2 ounces pumpkin seeds
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Cream, to serve (optional)
  • 4 sprigs fresh coriander, to garnish (optional)
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion gently for 5 minutes, until softened.
  2. Add the pumpkin, sweet potatoes, orange zest and juice, garlic, ground coriander and stock. Season to taste. Bring to a boil, lower temperature and simmer for 25 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and liquidize the soup with a hand-held blender until smooth.
  4. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan. Add the pumpkin seeds and a pinch of sea salt. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the pan, until seeds begin to pop and turn brown. Remove to a plate to cool slightly.
  5. Serve the soup in warmed bowls, sprinkled with pumpkin seeds, cream, and a sprig of fresh coriander, if desired.

Re-post from my old blog, Cucina Fresca

Macaroni and Cheese

Mac n Cheese

As temperatures drop throughout most of the country (although not in southern California – as usual!), I thought it was high time to feature a recipe* for one of my all-time favorite comfort foods:  macaroni and cheese. While there are roughly a zillion recipes for this classic pasta dish on the Internet, the one below takes on a decidedly French flair with the addition of béchamel and Comté cheese. The result? A rich, creamy, and delicious macaroni that will knock your freakin’ socks off. Seriously, make this immediately – I promise you won’t regret it! Enjoy!

MACARONI AND CHEESE

Yield: 6 servings

For the béchamel:

  • 4 cups (1 quart) whole milk
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt

To assemble:

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 10 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 cups shredded)
  • 2 ounces Comté cheese (about 3/4 cup shredded)
  • 1/2 tsp English mustard
  • 1/2 cup panko crumb

For the béchamel:

  1. Heat whole milk in a saucepan over medium heat just until it comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown in color (approximately 3 minutes). Remove from heat.
  3. Whisking constantly, slowly add the hot milk to the butter-flour mixture until evenly combined and smooth.
  4. Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon (approximately 2 to 3 minutes). Stir in one tablespoon of salt, taste, and add remaining salt if desired. Remove from heat and set aside.

To assemble:

  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just al dente (approximately 9 minutes). Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius).
  3. Place the reserved saucepan of béchamel over medium heat. Stir in cheeses and mustard until melted and smooth. Add the pasta and stir to combine. Transfer to a 5-quart baking dish, sprinkle with panko, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

*Re-posted from my old blog, Cucina Fresca

Apple Pie Cheesecake Bars with Salted Caramel

Apple Pie Cheesecake Bars2

This recipe – for Apple Pie Cheesecake Bars with Salted Caramel – is a huge family favorite, shared in honor of my husband’s birthday today. This is one of only two desserts he’s ever requested multiple times, and the only item he specifically asked for this year. Happy Birthday, my love – please save one of these for me!

APPLE PIE CHEESECAKE BARS WITH SALTED CARAMEL

Yields: 16 bars

For the bars:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 2 large fresh eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored + finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the streusel:

  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

For the salted caramel:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, crushed or kosher salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius).
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
  3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture.
  5. In a small bowl, combine streusel ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over spiced apple mixture. Bake for 30 minutes, or until filling is set.
  6. While bars are baking, make the salted caramel. In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, stir sugar and water over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to a boil, without stirring. If necessary, use a wet pastry brush to wash down any crystals on the side of the pan. Boil until the syrup is a deep amber color, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the from heat and carefully whisk in heavy cream. Stir in the unsalted butter and salt. Transfer the caramel to a dish and cool slightly. Drizzle over warm apple pie cheesecake bars. Leftover salted caramel sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  7. Enjoy!

Persimmon Bread

Persimmon Bread

It’s persimmon season!

Don’t worry, I forgot to mark this on my calendar too. In all honesty, I had no idea what a persimmon was until four mysteriously showed up in my Farm Fresh to You box last week. Thank goodness for Wikipedia (it’s not a tomato) and Google (it’s actually a sweet, delicious fruit)! Persimmons can be used in a variety of baked and non-baked goods, including this bread recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com. It’s moist, has a great spice flavor, and is a unique, crowd-pleasing autumn alternative to pumpkin bread. Enjoy!

PERSIMMON BREAD

Yields: 1 bundt cake, 2 full-sized or 4 miniature loaf pans

For the bread:

  • 2 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 fresh eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups persimmon pulp
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Vanilla glaze (optional), recipe follows

For the glaze:

  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 4 teaspoons milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To make bread:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Grease baking pan(s) well.
  2. In a small bowl, combine flour and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine sugar, oil, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Blend until smooth. Mix in persimmon pulp alternately with flour-baking soda mixture. Fold in nuts.
  4. Divide batter into the prepared pan(s), filling (each) 2/3 full.
  5. Bake for 45-55 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool for another 15 minutes.
  6. If using, spoon vanilla glaze over almost cooled cake. Serve when cooled.

To make vanilla glaze:

  1. Melt the butter and add to rest of ingredients. Mix until creamy and smooth.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup

It’s cold and flu season in many parts of the country (including here, despite being 90 flipping degrees outside – in NOVEMBER), so I thought I’d share one of my favorite recipes (a Tyler Florence classic!) for Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup. Preparing a pot of this soup is a great lazy weekend activity that – depending on the amount of time and energy you’d like to commit – can be made considerably easier with the substitution of store-bought chicken stock. I love the ability to control the level of sodium in the stock – not to mention the incredible flavor of the homemade version – so go for it if you can!

HOMEMADE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

Yields: 2 quarts

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 quarts chicken stock (recipe follows)
  • 8 ounces uncooked egg noodles
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Chicken stock:

  • 1 whole chicken (approximately 3 to 3/12 pounds), giblets discarded
  • 2 carrots, cut in large chunks
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in large chunks
  • 2 yellow onions, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved
  • 1/4 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

To make soup:

  1. Place a soup pot over medium heat and coat with the oil. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaf. Cook and stir for about 6 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.
  2. Pour in the chicken stock and bring the liquid to a boil. Add the noodles and simmer for 5 minutes, or until tender. Fold in the chicken, and continue to simmer for another couple of minutes to heat through.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.
To make chicken stock:
  1. Place the chicken and vegetables in a large stockpot over medium heat. Pour in only enough cold water to cover (about 3 quarts); too much will make the broth taste weak.
  2. Add the thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns, and allow it to slowly come to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, partially covered, until the chicken is done. As it cooks, skim any impurities that rise to the surface; add a little more water, if necessary, to keep the chicken covered while simmering.
  3. Carefully remove the chicken to a cutting board. When its cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones; hand-shred the meat into a storage container.
  4. Carefully strain the stock through a fine sieve into another pot to remove the vegetable solids. Use the stock immediately or if you plan on storing it, place the pot in a sink full of ice water and stir to cool down the stock. Cover and refrigerate for up to one week or freeze.

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts with Vanilla Glaze

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

Happy November, baking gods and goddesses! Fair warning: this month is going to be all pumpkin, (almost) all the time. If you’re a pumpkin hater, it’s time for a hiatus from this blog (and some deep soul-searching, because seriously – you don’t know happiness). For the rest of you, welcome and enjoy!

These Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts with Vanilla Glaze were a first for me. Not because I’ve never made doughnuts – in fact, I try a new doughnut recipe every fall – but because every single member of my household went absolutely BALLISTIC for them. My husband – who has never shown any particular interest in sweets – ate 5 before my last tray came out of the oven. Our puppy wouldn’t leave my side for a moment, and our two cats went on a meowing frenzy, ninja-flipping off walls and repeatedly jumping onto no-cat’s land (the kitchen counter). Just when I thought it was safe to reach for my camera and snap a few photos for this blog, our youngest kitty – a rescue boy named Perseus – poked his head up beside the cooling rack, snatched a doughnut, and was out of the room in a flash, leaving only a trail of crumbs in his wake. I don’t know exactly what it is about these wee doughnuts, but they’re definitely a fall favorite for creatures big and small!

The original recipe (from the brilliant blog Confessions of a Cookbook Queen) calls for dipping the doughnuts in glaze only once, but I went for it (‘it’ being diabetes, I guess?) and dipped them three times. Then I sprinkled them with copious amounts of cinnamon-sugar. I know, I know – but I’m not sorry. Not even a little. They’re SO GOOD!

BAKED PUMPKIN DOUGHNUTS

Yields: 3 dozen mini doughnuts

For the doughnuts:

  • 1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large fresh eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 6 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon-sugar (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celsius). Spray mini doughnut molds with nonstick spray; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. Stirring frequently, bring pumpkin, cinnamon, and cloves to a simmer in a medium saucepan until puree thickens and just begins sticking to the bottom of the pan (approximately 4-6 minutes). Carefully pour the hot puree into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the brown sugar and oil, then slowly beat in the eggs. Add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
  4. Fill each doughnut mold about 3/4 full. [The original recipe recommended using a piping bag, but I used a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off – easy filling and cleanup!]
  5. Bake doughnuts in preheated oven for 5-6 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Keep an eye on these to prevent over-baking.
  6. Let the doughnuts cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack while you prepare glaze.
  7. In a medium bowl, whisk all the glaze ingredients together until smooth.
  8. Place a sheet of foil or wax paper under your cooling rack. Dip each doughnut in the glaze, allowing excess to drip off. Place back on the cooling rack until glaze is firm. [I actually repeated this dipping process three times, because I love this glaze. I also topped them of with a sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar.]
  9. Enjoy!